Quark Stollen with Almond Paste

 

The holidays just aren’t the same without stollen. It’s been like this since I met J, many moons ago. I absolutely love stollen! J’s parents used to visit us in the UK from the Netherlands and would always bring some with them. They even include it in the food parcels they send to us at this time of the year. In 2008, our Christmas parcel went on a detour to Sydney, Australia and we didn’t get it until March… you can imagine how fresh the stuff was then, eek!!! 

We’ve browsed store-bought varieties, but the ingredients make me want to hurl. Yuck! In 2009, I decided to make my own stollen for Christmas. Since I only started honeyandspice in April 2010, I thought it would be better to wait closer to the holiday season to blog about it.

This recipe calls for quark or drained yoghurt. I would have loved to use quark, but at that moment in time, PCC did not sell it. So, I used imported European yoghurt instead. If using yoghurt, it needs to be strained in a cloth-lined sieve for 1 hour. I had to drain mine for 6 hours in the refrigerator and only then, did it have the consistency of quark. Scraping it out of the cloth was quite an experience! 

The resulting stollen was pretty good. The bread was like pastry, buttery and rich, studded with dried fruits and a delicious almond paste running through the loaf. These loaves were HUGE! I had to put off making sugar loaf because I thought there was way too much food!  

Waiting for freshly baked bread to cool is like torture for me. Once baked and hot out of the oven, it calls to me, taunting me and telling me to cut into its rich crusty exterior. It’s like forbidden fruit, you shouldn’t eat it, but it’s so hard to resist. So, you can imagine having to wait a 2-3 days before slicing these suckers was absolute torture! When I did slice it (Christmas Eve), the almond paste running through the centre of the stollen was so dark, it looked (to say the least) a tad odd. This was only because I used ground almonds with their skins on – it did taste wonderful, despite its odd appearance.

The stollen should be made 2-3 days ahead of the time you want to eat it. The ones I made lasted over a week after they were baked.

 

QUARK STOLLEN WITH ALMOND PASTE

Makes 2 HUGE loaves

Adapted from “Home Baking – The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition around the World”, by J. Alford and N. Duguid

 

Ingredients

For the stollen loaves

  • 1 t dried active baking yeast
  • 60 ml (¼ c) lukewarm water
  • 2 t sugar
  • 180 ml (¾ c) milk, warmed
  • 1 t salt
  • 300 g (2 c) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 200 g (1 c) quark or 400 g (2 c) plain whole milk yoghurt (drained through a cloth lined sieve overnight in the refrigerator)
  • 75 g (½ c) currants
  • 115 g (¾ c) raisins 
  • 35 g (¼ c) dried cranberries
  • 35 g (¼ c) finely chopped dried apricots
  • 120 ml (½ c) orange juice
  • 120 ml (½ c) dark rum or strong black tea
  • 2 T sugar
  • 550-600 g (3 ½ -4 c) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 227 g (1 c) unsalted butter, cut into chunks

For the almond paste

  • 400 g ground almonds
  • 200 g icing (confectioners) sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 pinch lemon zest/peel
  • ½ t almond extract

To finish

  • 30g (2 T) butter, melted
  • 30g (¼ c) icing (confectioners) sugar

 

Method

1. The day before you wish to bake, dissolve yeast and sugar in lukewarm water. Let sit for 5 minutes or until frothy.

2. Add milk and salt, then stir in 225g (1 ½ c) flour until well combined. Stir for 30 seconds in one direction.

3. Stir in quark/drained yoghurt, then add remaining 75g (½ c) flour. Stir and turn until the dough is smooth. Cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and chill overnight.

4. Meanwhile, combine currants, raisins and mixed peel. Stir in orange juice and dark rum/tea. Stir and cover. Let stand for 8 hours, stirring occasionally.

5. When ready to proceed, drain fruit in a sieve set over a bowl. Reserve soaking liquid and set fruit aside.

6. Fold soaking liquid and sugar into the dough, then add 375g (2 ½ c) flour, 150g (1 c) at a time. Work into a smooth dough.

7. Blitz butter with 150g (1 c) flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Knead into the dough. Let the dough prove, covered for 1 hour.

8. Meanwhile make the almond paste. Stir together ground almonds, icing sugar, egg whites, lemon zest and almond extract. Mix well. Form into two – 30 cm (12 inch) long rolls. Wrap in cling film (plastic wrap) and chill until needed.

9. Line two baking trays (sheets) with parchment paper.

10. Turn out dough onto a generously floured surface. Flatten dough to 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick square. Spread drained fruit over the lower half of the dough, leaving a border of 5 cm (2 inch) all around.

11. Fold the sides of the dough over the fruit, then fold the top of the dough over the bottom.

12. Gently knead the dough to distribute the fruit evenly, incorporating more flour as necessary. If any fruit escapes, simple push back into the dough.

13. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces, each will be about 680g (1 ½ lb).

14. On a floured surface, flatten one piece into an oval of 30 cm (12 inch) long and 15-20 cm (6-8 inch) wide. Press an indentation into the length of the dough to accommodate the almond paste. Lay almond paste roll in the centre of the dough. Fold dough over the almond paste to create a mounded loaf about 10 cm (4 inch) wide. Repeat with the other piece of dough and almond paste roll.

15. Brush off any excess flour and transfer to the prepared baking tray. Cover loosely and let rise for 45 minutes. NOTE: the breads will be a little puffier, but will not double in size.

16. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 190 C (375 F).

17. Bake breads for 1 hour in the middle of the oven, switching and rotating the trays (sheets) as necessary. When the bread is done, they will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. They will be a little soft, so be careful handling them until fully cool.

18. Transfer to a wire rack over a tray (to catch any drips). Brush with melted butter and dust liberally with icing (confectioners) sugar. Allow to cool fully for 4-6 hours. Wrap tightly in cling film (plastic wrap) and allow them to mature for 24-48 hours. This will help the crumb firm up and will improve flavor and texture.

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